Looking for a week-long vacation destination, no driving whatsoever.
August 3, 2014 1:40 PM   Subscribe

I want to take a vacation at the end of September/early October with the following requirements. 1. No driving. 2. English-speaking or tourist-friendly for people who do not speak the language. 3. Relaxing. 4. Easy for first-time solo traveler.

I realize that's not a lot to go on, but I'm open to whatever. I haven't done a ton of traveling, and I just need to get away. I'm not opposed to a city (I like museums and walking around looking at interesting architecture). I'm not looking for a packed itinerary, so it would need to be a city with good parks, cafes, etc. where I could chill out and read or people watch. I'm fine with staying in the U.S., but the no driving requirement is limiting. I've already spent lots of time in the Northeastern cities with public transit. Someplace where I could take a cab/shuttle from the airport/train station to a walkable town would be good.

I'm in NYC. Budget, maybe $1500? Not sure yet.
posted by Mavri to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
What about Portland? It's small, walkable, has good public transit, and definitely fits your requirement for good cafes and parks.
posted by lisp witch at 1:42 PM on August 3, 2014

New Orleans is another US destination that won't require driving and meets your requirements.
posted by kimdog at 1:47 PM on August 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

posted by jgirl at 1:47 PM on August 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

It looks like you can fly to Amsterdam for around $900. I really enjoyed visiting there, and it's very English-friendly, with tons of stuff to do and great public transportation. When I went, I found a place on airbnb, about a 20 minute tram ride from the center of the city, for about $70 per night.
posted by moonmilk at 1:49 PM on August 3, 2014 [5 favorites]

Seconding Amsterdam. You could even stay in a windmill.
posted by atlantica at 1:54 PM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, yes, Portland is a great answer for this. The light rail (called Max) goes from the airport to points all over the city. You'd probably want to stay downtown-ish, and, from there, you can walk, take the streetcar, take the bus, or take the Max to lots of interesting places all around town -- or sit in the Park Blocks and people watch. And late September/early October is typically a lovely time of year without much rain. Really it's still late summer.

Plus, if you want to get out to the (beautiful, rugged) coast, you can take the transit connector. Cannon Beach is a charming town that's quite crowded in the summer, but lovely in the off-season, with plenty of lodging right in town near restaurants and such. It'd be great for an overnight trip.

Seattle would be another good option.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:54 PM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

We have done really pleasant carless vacations in Seattle, Portland and Chicago. In all three instances we took public transit from the airport straight to the place we were staying (or close- in Seattle we added a 10-min taxi after the light rail to get up to Capitol Hill). All three places are good for wandering, walking, cafés, people watching etc.
posted by charmedimsure at 2:38 PM on August 3, 2014

Minneapolis would be a good choice. Beautiful in the fall, light rail from the airport, great parks, and whenever people can be outside, they are.
posted by advicepig at 2:43 PM on August 3, 2014

Something different: A cruise.

Single cruising is more expensive than double-cruising, but still falls in your budget. A quick glance at Expedia (double anything you see there, because those prices are based on two cruisers) shows trips to Canada or Bermuda sailing out of New York or New Jersey for around $1100 - $1400, or as little as $800 if you sail on Carnival.

That said, my advice is do not sail on Carnival. I've been happy with Princess in the past, but they're at the upper end of the price range.

Once you're on the ship, everything is taken care of for you. You'll be dropped off every day or two in the tourist sector of a new town, plenty of interesting things available in walking distance, everything is very tourist-oriented, and you can either go out and socialize with people during at-sea days, or just hang out on deck reading a book.

Cruising gets a lot of hate, mostly from people who have never done it. It's a great way to have all of the logistics of your vacation taken care of and just see (the touristy parts of) lots of different places in a single trip.

Also, if you're OK with a roommate, some of the cruise lines have roommate-matching services to cut your price down. But 7-10 weeks out might be a bit late for that.
posted by Hatashran at 3:27 PM on August 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

For your time of year, consider Charleston, SC, or Savannah, GA. The summer heat will have died down but it will still be warm. Both are walkable cities with lots to do (more in Charleston, to be sure, but Savannah has its charms), and there's excellent food.

I've flown to Charleston and taken a cab downtown, and then not needed anything other than my feet until the return to the airport. (I did rent a bike for a trip out to Palm Island.) I've driven to Savannah, but while I was there my rental car spent most of its time in the B&B parking.
posted by brianogilvie at 4:17 PM on August 3, 2014

I wouldn't do New Orleans without a car. And September October is hurricane season which could put a damper on any plans. Chicago is completely doable without a car.
posted by AlexiaSky at 4:21 PM on August 3, 2014

September is still hot in Savannah. On the plus side it's very walkable and there's a cushy public bus from the airport to downtown for just a couple of bucks. We've got great architecture and some good museums. Parks abound. Feel free to memail me if you want to know more.
posted by mareli at 5:58 PM on August 3, 2014

New Orleans is 100% doable without a car. If you want to mainly do downtown/central business district things, which is all most people want to do. Previous poster may not agree with that sort of tourism but most NOLA tourists don't need a car.
posted by jennybento at 7:00 PM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have done all of these without a car to great success:

San Francisco
Portland, OR
Key West

Merida in the Yucatan. Have done this both with and without a car and both were equally enjoyable for very different reasons. Heck, you could even rent a person to drive you around for a day for disturbingly little money. I did that once and hit cenotes, the beach and a ruin all for around $150 USD for over eight hours of being driven.



posted by FlamingBore at 7:17 PM on August 3, 2014

I just did Berlin as a first time solo traveler and it meets all your requirements! Wonderful city.
posted by raw sugar at 10:36 PM on August 3, 2014

Weird suggestion I know but: Cancun Mexico. The whole place is set up to take care of American tourists; English is widely spoken and cheap flights are widely available. If you're staying in the Hotel Zone, hop the tram to the "real" Mexican town where there's endless opportunity to hang out off the beaten path. Also there's buses and services just waiting to take you to interesting sites like Chichen Itza and Merida. September-October is the off season because it's the rainy season in Yucatan, but if you're not going for beaches and sunshine this can be a good deal (it's still sunny plenty of the time), and a lot of the more interesting "local" events (e.g. fiestas) happen then.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 11:30 PM on August 3, 2014

September is a good time to visit the Netherlands. It's typically warm but not hot, and the really rainy/windy autumn weather tends to start in mid-October or so. I even found flights for as low as $820. You can absolutely get around without a car, not just within a city, but between them (I live here and don't have a driver's license).

Most signage is in Dutch once you leave Schiphol, but overall the country as a whole very English-friendly, especially Amsterdam.

Personally, I think there are pockets of Amsterdam that are relaxing, but the city as a whole isn't; but other some other Dutch cities are wonderfully laid-back, and you can reach most of them in less than two hours by train. I'd highly recommend Utrecht as another major city to visit, and Leiden, Haarlem, Gouda, and Delft as small cities to day-trip in.
posted by neushoorn at 3:49 AM on August 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

For something completely different, the Adirondacks? You can take the train to North Creek and then a free shuttle to stay at Garnet Hill Lodge.
posted by metasarah at 6:28 AM on August 4, 2014

I would second Cancún. The airport is close to the "zona hotelera", which is a several mile long strip of beach with lots of hotels, some all-inclusive, some not, and a modern sewage treatment plant that means you can drink the water. Sure, there's a certain "Spring Break" vibe at some places year round, but no one's forcing you go out clubbing at Señor Phroggs. There's a local bus that runs all the time that will take you along the hotel zone and to downtown, but taxis are cheap compared to the U.S. The Mayan ruins of Tulum are just an hour and a half down the coast, and worth a visit. Depending on your preference, there are escorted tours, point-to-point air-conditioned buses, or the mini-bus "colectivos" that the locals use. That time of year is still quite warm to hot, and near the peak of hurricane season, but it's also really cheap. Keep an eye on TravelZoo for packages that are popping up right around now. It is sometimes shocking what you can get, with airfare, food, and drinks included, even with a single supplement.
posted by wnissen at 9:35 AM on August 4, 2014

Many good answers that I'll keep in mind for the future. bluedaisy's comment about Cannon Beach got me obsessed with the idea of sitting on a balcony with a lovely beach view. Oregon coast is too pricey, so I'm taking the train to southern Maine. Thanks everybody!
posted by Mavri at 1:30 PM on September 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

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